His wife was the faithful and hapless
goddess Sigyn, whose fidelity surely he did not deserve. After Loki had
been bound in a cave with a venomous snake dripping poison upon him as
punishment - Sigyn sat by her husband's side and held a bowl over him to catch
the drops before they hit him.When the bowl filled, she had to rise and empty
it, and then the stinging drops fell directly upon Loki. It was said his
twisting to escape the pain was the cause of earthquakes.
It is Loki who begins the chain of events that leads to the destruction of
the gods. He does this by causing the death of the beautiful Baldr,
Frigg's son, who in his goodness and perfection embodies the attainment of every
desirable quality. Baldr's death plunges all of Asgard into mourning.
Yet Loki feels no remorse, and in fact relishes every opportunity to exert
his contrary nature. After Frigg had gone to great lengths to bring Baldr
back to the land of the living by asking all beings to weep for his return, Loki
(in the guise of an old female giant) steadfastly refused to shed a single tear
for the slain god. Thus Baldr was consigned to the realms of the dead, under the
governance of Lady Hel.
This loss of innocence represented by Baldr's death is the act that triggers
Ragnarok, the end of all things. Ragnarok begins with famine and darkness
and bitter cold - a Winter lasting three entire years. It ends with all
creation becoming a flaming furnace. In the middle is staged the disastrous
final battle in which the gods are arrayed against the powers of evil
represented by the giants. Nearly everything and every body, in all realms, is
destroyed. Loki fights against the gods, and is killed, as is Odin, Tyr, Freyr,
Even the elfs, dwarfs, Sun and Moon are destroyed. Out of this a new
Earth arises, and a single man and woman, Lifthrasir and Lif, who had hidden
themselves in Yggdrasil the World Tree, emerge. Baldr comes forth, and a few
sons and daughters of the gods survive, and begin a fresh cycle of life.
This final lesson reminds us that nothing can remain static - even the gods
Tyr, represented by the spear shaped runic letter and known as Tiw by
the Anglo-Saxons, is the god of law and order commemorated in the day name
Tuesday. (The Roman war god Mars is equivalent to Tyr in many ways, and so
recalled in the modern Italian name for Tuesday, 'martedi'.).
A victory-giver to his followers, warriors marked their weapons with Tyr's
runic sign. Though not as well known as Thor, Tyr performed a feat of courage
that no other god could agree to: that of risking his right hand in the mouth of
the giant wolf Fenrir (an offspring of the dangerous "trickster" god, Loki).
Fenrir ranged freely about Asgard, the land of the gods, and had special
status despite his fearsomeness. Such was his courage that only Tyr was willing
to feed this beast. Wearying of the treat of wolfish violence, Odin (Woden to
the Anglo-Saxons) commissioned dwarfs to forge from magical materials a fetter
with which Fenrir could be bound.
Only dwarfs could have wrought anything so cunningly, for it was made from
the breath of a fish, the sinews of a bear, the spittle from a bird, the hairs
of a women's beard, the roots of a mountain, and the noise made by cat as it
walks. The resultant fetter was as light as a silken cord and yet completely
unbreakable. Wily Fenrir refused to accept such an innocent looking thing about
his neck without some form of surety: he demanded that one of the gods place his
hand into the wolf's mouth. Only unflinching Tyr agreed to do so. When an
enraged Fenrir realised all his mighty strength could not break the slender
cord, he extracted from Tyr his payment - the huge jaws snapped shut and Tyr
lost his hand.